LS Engines Take Over Professional Drifting

First, a little background. “Drifting” is a form of motorsport imported from Japan in which pairs of cars face off in a contest of power oversteer. Unlike racing, time isn’t a factor – winners are sorted from losers by a panel of judges who rank competitors based on slide angle and car control. If NASCAR could be compared to speed skating, drift is more like pairs figure skating (if both skaters were trying to eliminate each other from competition, that is…)

Long Beach runner-up Matt Powers' Team Need for Speed Nitto Tires Nissan s14 has LS7 power under the hood.

When Americans first became aware of drift, it was an exclusively import-vehicle phenomenon. Turbo fours and sixes were the powerplants of choice, with the occasional all-motor “Hachi Roku” (“Eight Six” in Japanese – slang for the AE86-platform RWD Toyota) four-banger thrown in for variety. Today, the Formula DRIFT competition series is surprisingly popular here in the United States, and although Japanese makes dominate when it comes to the vehicles themselves, when you look under the hood of many of them, there’s a red, white, and blue surprise waiting.

That intake manifold looks awfully familiar...

At the opening round of the 2011 Formula DRIFT season in Long Beach, California, the most popular engine family among the competitors was, by a large margin, the Chevy LS. Number one qualifier Conrad Grunewald, the only competitor in the field of 32 with a car that originally came with an LS, explains, “They’re cheap, plentiful, light, make good horsepower without a power adder, and they’re reliable.” So dominant have they become, in fact, that Grunewald foresees a rule change that might forbid cross-breeding between platforms, just to maintain the variety pro drift once had.

Grunewald's 2010 Camaro is a rarity in Formula DRIFT competition - an LS-powered car that actually came with an LS from the factory!

The most popular chassis for a LS swap is the Nissan S13/14/15 series, known to us here as the 240SX. Bonus points for the Harbor Freight jack handle hood prop!

Matt Field's Fatlace/Blacktrax/Sokodu Designs Nissan 240sx LS1 powerplant draws a crowd...

Obligatory umbrella girl photo. We are required by law to include these whenever we write an article about drifting.

Drifting is murderous on tires - one round per set is pretty much the standard. But wheels also turn out to be a consumable item as well.

Though the Solstice never came with a V8, the LS sure does look right nestled between the front tires, doesn't it? GM should revive this platform with the engine it should have had from the start, but it will never happen, because it would seriously cut into Corvette sales.

We have no idea what this is about.

On the manufacturers' midway, we spotted this Mazda RX-7 with an LS swap.

The End...

About the author

Paul Huizenga

After some close calls on the street in his late teens and early twenties, Paul Huizenga discovered organized drag racing and never looked back, becoming a SFI-Certified tech inspector and avid bracket racer. Formerly the editor of OverRev and Race Pages magazines, Huizenga set out on his own in 2009 to become a freelance writer and editor.
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